UPDATE: [Graduate] Deadline Extension (Feb. 1, 2008): "Writing War": Literary Explorations of Conflict

full name / name of organization: 
Caroline Krzakowski
contact email: 

“Writing War”: Literary Explorations of Conflict
McGill University, Montréal
14th Annual Graduate Conference on Language and Literature
March 28-30, 2008

The English Graduate Students Association of McGill University is pleased
to announce its 14th annual Graduate Conference on Language and Literature,
and is seeking papers on the theme “‘Writing War’: Literary Explorations of
Conflict.” The conference will be held in Montréal, Canada, on March 28 -
30, 2008.


DEADLINE: 1 February 2008

The conference title, “Writing War”, is taken from Margot Norris’s book
Writing War in the Twentieth Century (Charlottesville, VA: UP of Virginia,
2000), in which the author explores the failure of twentieth century
literature to put an end to the global conflicts that continued even after
the end of the Cold War. Now well into the twenty-first century, where
global conflict abounds, the question “to what end do we write war?”
continues to be asked of academics and the public alike. With this
question in mind, the conference seeks to understand and reconcile the many
roles of war literature: as historical documentation, memorialization,
propaganda, and even as an expression of agency. Although Norris’s book
focuses on twentieth century literature, we invite and encourage papers
about writing as early as Beowulf, on a broad array of topics relating to
war and literature.

Possible topics include:

- militarism in literature
- literature as propaganda
- mythic battles
- war and the construction/representation of gender
- war and the representation of personhood
- the representation of war in science-fiction
- literature as commemoration or memorialization
- women and war
- narratives of the homefront
- narratives of shell-shock and other trauma
- artistic reactions to war
- epic as genre
- wartime ephemera as literary text
- testimonials, archives, and/or diary writing as documents of war
- war literature as nation-building project
- reportage of war
- recuperation of lost voices through war literature
- the ethics of writing war

Please send proposals (300 words) for the General Call for Papers via email
to either Michèle at michele.rackham_at_mail.mcgill.ca or Caroline at
caroline.krzakowski_at_mail.mcgill.ca by Friday, February 1, 2008.


>From Widows to Warriors: Representations of Women in
Medieval English War Narratives

While medieval English narratives treating the subject of war may initially
appear to describe an almost exclusively male sphere, many offer depictions
of female characters that contribute in a variety of ways to the
narratives’ representation of war. From Anglo-Saxon poetry’s
warrior-saints Juliana, Judith and Elene to the weeping widows and
conquered Amazons of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale, women fulfill several roles
in medieval English narratives’ portrayal of physical warfare, from
helpless bystanders to ruthless instigators. Additionally, as the romantic
(sub)plots of chivalric epics such as Malory’s Morte Darthur suggest, war
narratives may feature women as participants in more figurative
wars—emotional, psychological, or ethical—that complement or contrast
accounts of conventional martial conflict.

This panel seeks papers exploring the representation of women and war in
any period of medieval English narrative literature (poetry or prose).

Potential guiding questions include:

- What roles do women occupy in medieval English war narratives, and to
what end(s)?
- How do medieval English writers use female characters (central or
peripheral) to develop their representations and/or views of war?
- To what extent are medieval English writers’ depictions of women and war
affected by factors such as generic conventions, the nature of the war
depicted, and/or the writers’ particular context (social, political,
religious or historical)?

Possible areas of examination include (but are not limited to):
- Women as leaders/makers/opponents of war (conventional or figurative)
- The role of wives, lovers, mothers or widows in war narratives
- The role of religion in the depiction of women in war narratives
(saints, goddesses, etc.)

Abstracts of no more than 300 words may be sent to Chelsea Honeyman
(chelsea.honeyman_at_mail.mcgill.ca) no later than 1 February 2008

Home and Homeland: Writing Conflict and the Domestic Realms

Nancy Armstrong’s groundbreaking book Desire and Domestic Fiction: A
Political History of the Novel claims that the novel “not only contained
disorder within the household, but … also gave it female form” (183). This
panel explores the relationship between violent conflict and the domestic
both in terms of gender roles and family relationships and in relation to
the production of nationalism and national identities. Investigating the
concept of violence and the domestic requires an examination of the
interdependence of home and homeland in literature. This includes reading
the home and the family as producers of national identity as well as
viewing nationalism as a determinant for and within family relationships.
How are revolution, foreign war, invasion, class conflict and terrorism
translated into literary representations of the nation and the household?
In what ways do the home and homeland become metaphors for each other in
times of war? Does the concept of separate public and private worlds
disintegrate under the pressure of a definition of the domestic that
includes both the home and the home front? Are the disenfranchised
empowered within the home and the nation by the instability created by
violent conflict? Is political violence truly “contained,” as Armstrong
argues, by the domestic, or are the nation and the home transformed and
rewritten by war?

Works Cited:
Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the
Novel. New
     York: Oxford UP, 1987.

Please send paper proposals of approximately 300 words to Patricia Cove,
PhD Candidate, Dalhousie University (patricia.cove_at_dal.ca) no later than 1
February 2008.


Epistolary Forms: Letters in Wartime

This panel aims to explore the genre of the letter in times of war. We are
seeking papers on letters, or on literary forms that incorporate letters
(such as epistolary novels or poetry); papers on such texts from any and
all periods are most welcome. Types of letters might include official
communications, private correspondence, letters between combatants and
those at home, and letters between those left at home. What is the function
of such letters? How are letters in wartime different from letters in
peacetime? How, if at all, are epistolary conventions affected? Are new
conventions developed? Do wartime letters convey information, or hide it?
Is it ever possible to accurately communicate the experience of war to
those at home? Is there a fundamental difference between actual
correspondence and the letters found in fictionalized accounts of wars?
What are the effects when private letters are subject to public scrutiny
(by censors or otherwise)? What do wartime letters reveal about the
experience of war that other genres don’t? How has wartime communication
changed since the “information revolution”? The materiality of wartime
correspondence may also be of interest, as such letters may be written on
different paper with different ink, and may take a circuitous route to
their addressee.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words may be sent to Emily Essert at
emily.essert_at_mail.mcgill.ca no later than 1 February 2008.


Mediating War: Literature, Conflict, and Technologies of Representation

The first half of the twentieth century saw literary Modernism emerge
against a twin backdrop of increasingly globalized conflict and
proliferating technologies of reproduction and diffusion. This panel
invites participants to consider this confluence of words, wars, and
machines, and to imagine possible lineages reaching further back in
literary history. What happens to writing at the intersections of war and
its manifold representations? How did photography, film, radio, and other
media affect writers’ diverse understandings of war, and how did it alter
their evocations of it? To pursue a link made by Friedrich Kittler in
Gramophone, Film, Typewriter: to what extent are technologies of recording
and representation themselves inherently tied to technologies of conflict
and, even, to an urge to preserve and re-animate the dead? Panelists are
encouraged to consider the stylistic and thematic impact of recording and
broadcasting technologies on the writing of the period as well as writerly
involvement in various non-print media; indeed, one aim of this panel is to
interrogate divisions such as “print” and “non-print,” “writing” and
“broadcasting.” Panelists might also address technologies of
representation—such as maps or optical instruments—which predate the
twentieth century; while Modernism, loosely defined, forms the centrepiece
of this panel, forays into other literary movements and eras are
encouraged. Abstracts (300 words or less) can be sent via email to

Possible avenues of inquiry include:
--technologies of scale and distance: cartography, telescopes, microscopes
--war photography and the literary imagination from the Civil War onward
--photography and the realist impulse
--Futurism and the apotheosis of technology
--newsreels and war film from the First World War onward
--World War II radio broadcasting: notions of audience, ambience, and contagion
--technologies of treason and sabotage, encryption and espionage
--web-based media and 21st-century conflict
--speculative fiction: imagining new wars and new technologies
--haunted and haunting media: technology and the resurrection of the dead

Abstracts of no more than 300 words may be sent to Ian Whittington at
ian.whittington_at_gmail.com no later than 1 February 2008.


War and Gender

This panel will focus on gender in relation to war in North American poetry
written after the World Wars. In the aftermath of the wars, poets and
society in general were resituating themselves in communities based on
gender and nationality. Adapting a phrase from Adrienne Rich, Michael
Davidson in Guys Like Us (2004) argues that in the 1950s, for instance,
male poets in the United States formed communities that complied with
"compulsory homosociality" (16) by demeaning and excluding women. In the
context of the American war in Vietnam, this sexist homosociality was
reinforced by what Susan Jeffords in The Remasculinization of America calls
"masculine bonding" (168). For papers that might explore this historical
context or earlier twentieth century contexts at this conference, there are
many initial questions. To what extent did men and women comply with or
resist these social forces in their poetry? How did women express their
exclusion from such groups, and to what extent did they create communities
of their own through poetry? In what cases did homosexual poets identify
with these groups or others according to sex or gender? Were poets in
Canada inclined to endorse or critique American views of wars in which the
Canadian government did not engage? To what extent did poets in the United
States serve anti-war sentiment or vice versa? How did gender and
nationality serve different ends in post-war North American poetry,
or did they?
Submit proposals for your papers (approximately 300 words) to Joel Deshaye
at joel.deshaye_at_mail.mcgill.ca no later than 1 February 2008


Mythological Representations of War

Roland Barthes once wrote that “Myth lends itself to history in two ways:
by its form, which is only relatively motivated; by its concept, the nature
of which is historical” (Barthes 137). Given the historical nature of
myth, it is not surprising that so many cultures have chosen this form to
document and explain their historical conflicts. But there are two dominant
understandings of myth: the first, “romantic” meaning of myth claims it as
a “superior intuitive mode of cosmic understanding”, whereas the second
“rational” meaning of the term is that “myth is a false or unreliable story
or belief” (“myth”). This panel seeks to understand the role of myth in
documenting and commemorating war. What are the implications of using a
fictional mode with a “rational” meaning to document historical conflict?
Similarly, if myth is to be understood as a “romantic” mode, what is at
stake in remembering conflict as an imaginative event, and one that
positions the conflict in a realm that is, in some cases, super-human?
Possible topics to explore include:

- Public reactions to mythological accounts of war
- The role of the warrior in mythology
- The role of women in mythological accounts of war
- Epic as a genre of myth
- Modern myths as war monuments
- Counter-myth as a rewriting of the historical record of conflict

Works Cited:
Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Lavers. New York: Hill and
Wang, 1972.
“myth" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Ed. Christopher
Baldick. Oxford University Press, 1996. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford
University Press. McGill University. 19 November 2007.

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to Michèle Rackham at
michele.rackham_at_mail.mcgill.ca no later than 1 February 2008.

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